In a shocking turn of events, the Indian table tennis contingent has expressed their dissent over the absence of sports psychologist Gayatri Vartak from the team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Vartak, a former badminton player who was on the long list of players and support staff for the Birmingham Games beginning on July 28, failed to make it into the final squad.
Players like Sharath Kamal, reigning national champion Sreeja Akula and Reeth Rishya have reportedly expressed their concern on Vartak’s absence in the contingent by stating that her presence would have made a big difference as she has helped players to cope up with the mental pressure on numerous occasions.
“The 33 per cent rule has made it difficult to have all the support we need. For me personally, the mental coach could be of great help, given the pressure and the expectation of the game. I raised a request with Sports Authority of India but could not find a place for more support staff,” Kamal told PTI.
As per the guidelines, up to 33 per cent of the athletes count make up the support staff but it is not strictly followed. And as per reports, it has not been followed in table tennis, as well. For eight players, six members will be travelling to Birmingham as part of the support staff, including two national coaches S Raman, and Anindita Chakraborty, Manika Batra’s personal coach Chris Andrian Pfeiffer, masseur Harmeet Kaur, physio Vikash Singh and team manager SD Mudgil, member of the High Court-appointed Committee of Administrators running the TTFI.
Vartak had worked with the Indian team at the national camp in Bengaluru in May. “I have been working personally with Gayatri for the last eight months and it has helped me a lot. She was also there when I won my maiden national title. In a big event like CWG, a mental coach can only be beneficial as his/her presence provides much-needed support to players who constantly go through a lot of pressure,” said Sreeja.
Her teammate Reeth Rishya has also raised a similar question as she stated that having a mental trainer helps a lot in pressure situations which players expect to face during such a highly competitive tournament.